Comprehensive Reassessment of Energy Intensities by Transportation Mode

Focus Area



Air Quality







Research Idea Scope

Energy intensities (energy use per unit of activity) are basic information for forecasting, policy analysis, planning, and monitoring progress toward national energy and environmental goals. The most recent comprehensive study of passenger and freight energy intensities is now more than 20 years old.

Comprehensive, consistent, and objective measures of transportation energy intensity will be developed for all transportation modes, both passenger and freight, by mode and function, and at different spatial scales (e.g., national, regional, metropolitan). The level of detail should reflect analytical needs as well as the availability of reliable and accurate data.

Detail is important to ensure valid comparisons across modes and functions and to improve the accuracy of derived estimates, such as greenhouse gas emissions.

1. A review of United States and international literature will be conducted both to obtain modal energy intensity estimates for comparative purposes and to identify data sources and methods.

2. Both the literature and relevant agencies will be surveyed to identify and evaluate the most important uses of energy intensity numbers.

3. Based on the availability of data and the needs for energy intensity estimates, the modal, functional, and spatial structure of the intensity estimates to be derived will be specified. Methods and data sources for developing the estimates will be specified.

4. The methods will be implemented as a computer model (e.g., a spreadsheet) so that estimates can be made for both the past and future, according to the availability of data.

5. The best available data, together with engineering and transportation modeling methods will be used to develop consistent, comprehensive estimates of energy intensities. The products of this research will be a final report covering items 1-3 and 5, and a computer model of item 4, together with instructions for its operation.

Urgency and Payoff

 Energy intensity values are essential for predicting the impacts of changes in the structure of passenger and freight transportation. Because greenhouse gas emissions are closely linked to energy consumption, intensity numbers are a key factor in modeling the global warming impacts of different transportation activities. There is considerable value to having comprehensive, consistent, and objective measures of modal energy intensities with sufficient detail to be widely useful for the kinds of analyses mentioned above. Developing such estimates requires a substantial research effort.

Suggested By

Transportation Research Board 2002 Environmental Research Needs Conference Notes

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